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Church office hits back at Abbott comments on poor

Catholic Welfare Australia National Director, Mr Toby O'Connor, yesterday responded to Minister Tony Abbott's comments that Australians in poverty are responsible for their plight through their own behaviour.

Mr O'Connor said: "We are seeing more of the same denigration of vulnerable Australians as freeloaders in our society. All these irresponsible comments do is to create more divisions in the Australian community between those who have and those who have much less.

"The suggestion that increasing numbers of people who are homeless, earning low-wages or are unemployed are by and large the masters of their own fate fails to recognise the obvious impact of economic forces over past decades and panders to a pessimistic and cynical interpretation of human nature," he continued.

Mr O'Connor regretted that some Government Ministers "seem intent on describing vulnerable Australians as: 'job snobs', prone to 'long term idleness', 'welfare dependent' and 'abusing the essential decency of the Australian community'."

He said: "Conspicuous in its absence is any fair-minded promotion of the inherent dignity of all citizens including struggling individuals and families. Just as importantly, we are seeing a failure to promote any framework for governments to generate the opportunities that would directly lift people out of poverty."

Mr O'Connor concluded: "Regrettably, the decline of the debate on poverty in Australia to focus on the individual behaviour of those who are least able to defend themselves portrays a mean-spirited understanding of human nature and what it means to be a community."